The Empty Religions of Instagram [Content Made Simple]

Issue #212: Social media in 2025, Twitter spaces, and more!


How did influencers become our moral authorities?



I have hardly prayed to God since I was a teenager, but the pandemic has cracked open inside me a profound yearning for reverence, humility and awe. I have an overdraft on my outrage account. I want moral authority from someone who isn’t shilling a memoir or calling out her enemies on social media for clout.

Left-wing secular millennials may follow politics devoutly. But the women we’ve chosen as our moral leaders aren’t challenging us to ask the fundamental questions that leaders of faith have been wrestling with for thousands of years: Why are we here? Why do we suffer? What should we believe in beyond the limits of our puny selfhood?

The whole economy of Instagram is based on our thinking about our selves, posting about our selves, working on our selves.


This is one of the best social media culture pieces I’ve read so far in 2021. It is insightful and pulls back the curtain on one of the more fascinating online phenomenon that I come across. The religiosity of secular or former-evangelical influencers is so powerful and attractive to so many. Worthwhile read.


Paid Content from Twitter, and Our Take on the Royal Family

Twitter has launched a premium version of their platform that provides users with exclusive content...if they pay for it. And this week's Over/Under is a topic near and dear to our hearts: The Royal Family.


Link #1: What Will Social Media Be Like in 2025?

Pew Research Center’s Internet & Technology division released a new report in February about the future of the internet and technology. The report includes thoughts and prognostications from many industry leaders, and I’ve found it to be interesting and helpful.

Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist and author:

My worries? Well, there are now trillions of dollars invested in companies that depend on addiction, isolation and fear to keep growing. That’s very dangerous, since these companies will spend their war chests on deliberately causing panic, pain and fearThey know the more upset and reactive we are, the more likely we are to engage with their platforms. So, when the wealthiest industry in the world is doing everything it can to attack our basic sense of well-being, I do get concerned we may not have the resilience as people to oppose these forces. Once they really get a handle on using AI for this purpose, I’m not sure how we get ourselves out of it. Even now, we see people on social media platforms attacking those with whom they should be allied. They cancel people rather than collaborate with them. If AIs determine that turning people against each other is the easiest way for them to deliver desired metrics, then we could be in great trouble.

Link #2: The New Era for Long-form Journalism

Interesting trends in reading trends!

From pop-up newsletters to podcasts and short courses to documentaries, newsrooms are getting creative about presenting long-form journalism in the Internet era.

Why it matters: Streaming and smartphones have made it easier to turn big stories into more digestible formats.

Driving the news: Newsrooms are pivoting away from large chunks of text online, because the format doesn't suit readers attention spans on mobile phones.

  • The average word count for news articles has fallen from about 449 in September 2019 to about 380 in February 2020, according to data from Chartbeat.

  • The averaged engaged time on individual news articles has gone up slightly in that time, from 30.29 seconds per article to 31.24 seconds per article.

Link #3: Twitter Will Let People Record Spaces

It’s fun to see audio media take off. I am interested to see which audio platforms become most popular, and I think the ability to record natively is important.

Twitter’s social audio feature Spaces continues to expand its test group, but currently if you miss a live session, you miss the conversation for good. That, however, might change soon. In an interview with The Verge’s Nilay Patel on his Decoder podcast, Kayvon Beykpour, head of consumer product at Twitter, says the company plans to build a way to natively record conversations.

“I think it should be a choice,” he says. “If you think that the conversation was worth playing back, you ought to be able to do that. I personally am a little bit more bullish on two things. One, obviously the host should be able to save it and do whatever they want. Maybe you host a Space, you save it, then want to go edit it. You should be able to do that.”


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